I Found It At the Movies: 1964–Gertrud (Carl Theodor Dreyer)


Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

1964: Gertrud (Carl Theodor Dreyer)

It’s hard to think of many American equivalents to Gertrud, though maybe John Huston’s The Dead and some of the final films of Howard Hawks and John Ford qualify. What I’m talking about is when a director, toward the end of their career, starts making films that are so pure, so refined, that they take on a whole other form. Ever chew on a Saltine for a really long time? Okay, perhaps that’s not the best example, but it will at least lead you in the right direction of my point.  

Simply put, Gertrud is a UFO that doesn’t quite feel like a normal film. There’s something very abstract about it, something off and naked about it all. It’s distilled to the point of being transformative.  

It’s enough that I find the unique form of Gertrud incredibly fascinating, but I also respond to it as one of the most powerful love stories ever put on film. And, if these two things weren’t enough already, I’ll say this: I can’t think of a final moment in any work, in any medium, that more precisely offers closure on a great artist’s career.

What moviemakers can learn: I think there are two interesting courses that someone should teach. One would be on famous directors’ debut films, and the other on famous directors’ final films. Gertrud should definitely be featured in the latter course.  

Other contenders for 1964: This year has a good number of things I still need to see. These include: Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert and Cy Endfield’s Zulu. I need to revisit Satyajit Ray’s Charulata (The Lonely Wife), Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night and Peter Glenville’s Becket (which I saw in high school English class), as it’s been too long since I’ve seen any of them to know where they’d place on this list. From this year I really like Howard Hawks’ Man’s Favorite Sport? and Don Siegel’s The Killers. I love François Truffaut’s The Soft Skin, Bernardo Bertolucci’s Before the Revolution, Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. My closest runner-up, though, is Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.

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